Busan Korea – A trip to South Korea almost always means Seoul would be your first (and maybe only) destination. And no one can blame you. Seoul consistently gets international coverage for its amazing nightlife, congestion of globally renowned celebrities, major concentration of restaurants and food markets that sell all the best and known Korean foods that people travel far and wide to eat, and host some of the biggest shopping centres in all of South Korea – it may be viewed as a one-stop destination for many.
However, if you want to get in touch with nature, feel the sea breeze on your face, rub elbows with locals, and appreciate the more cultural aspects of South Korea, then Busan is your answer. Located in the southern regions, Busan is a seaside gem, extremely popular with locals (and now gaining traction with foreigners), boasting a number of beaches, hot springs, temples and shrines, specialty seafood dishes, and small, undiscovered villages.
There are an infinite number of things to do in Busan, who may not get as much rapt as Seoul, and yet has just as many unique points of interest that make it a worthwhile trip from anywhere in the world.
How to get there?
Busan is located further down south along the coast of South Korea. It is actually the second largest city, just after Seoul. You can travel to Busan from anywhere in South Korea using their subway system, which operates in densely populated cities all the way out to the countryside. There are also highway buses that operate for long distance traveling also.
If you’re visiting South Korea, there is an option to purchase the KORAIL Pass, which is available for any foreigners. They are passes that allow you to take almost all trains operated by KORAIL (i.e. almost everywhere domestic), for a selected period to time. Costs vary depending on how long you purchase the tickets for. To book yours with 5% off, head to KORAIL Pass.
Busan operates an international airport – Gimhae International Airport. This airport is a destination for many Asian countries, including Japan, China, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam and Thailand. If you’re flying from anywhere else in the world, chances are, you will need to do a stopover before heading there. Another option would be to fly to Seoul, and take the KTX (their high-speed train system) to Busan, which takes roughly 2.5 hours.
Where to stay?
Guesthouse Busan Korea – K79 Guesthouse
If you are looking for a cool guesthouse for your stay in Busan, I highly recommend the K79 Guesthouse. It’s really well located near the stations Nampo or Jungang of the Line 1 of the subway. The location is pretty convenient to visit Gukje market, Jalgachi fish market, Busan tower or also Gwangbok-dong culture and fashion street.
The common areas are so big and you can find anything you want there. The kitchen is available for all the guests if cooking is your thing. The wifi is also great and there’s free coffee and tea available all day. The breakfast is served from 8am to 10am and it’s buffet style so you are sure to be full. 🙂
The other big advantage of the K79 Guesthouse is the quality of the equipments. The dorms are designed really well and the beds are very confortable. Perfect for a good night of sleep! 🙂
Book here: K79 Guesthouse
Hotel Busan Korea – Shin Shin Hotel
Shin Shin Hotel is located in the heart of Busan, just a 3-minute walk from the popular Seomyeon area. It offers property-wide Wi-Fi, valet parking, and access to a business centre with PCs free of charge. Each room at Shin Shin Hotel is air conditioned, and fitted with a computer, flat-screen cable TV, kettle, fridge, and a private bathroom.
Why Guests Love It: the hotel was next to many historical sites, easy access to local restaurants, located in the quieter area of Seomyeon, decent spread at the buffet breakfast, bathroom was big and comfortable.
Book it here: Shin Shin Hotel
If you are looking for more amazing hotels in Busan, check out this blog post: The 10 Best Hotels in Busan.
Things to do in Busan Korea #1 – Gamcheon Culture Village
Aptly known as a crossover between Santorini and Macchu Picchu, Gamcheon Culture Village is a photographers dream. A massive, colourful, artsy village located at the foot of a mountain, it encompasses condensed houses that are painted in bright, colourful hues all around town. Artworks and graffiti pepper the laneways and walls, and because of the gradient of the mountain, when you climb up the side, you will be rewarded with a sweeping view of the town in all its rainbow glory. Pictures are especially vibrant at sunset, when the rays of sunlight hit the town and bask it in a warm, soft glow. You can purchase a map at the information desk at the beginning of the village for 2,000 won and collect stamps along the way at the points of interest on the map, or just roam on your own accord, wild and free.
Access: Take the subway to Toseong Station (Line 1). Use Exit 6 and continue straight until you can take the first right. Head to the bus stop in front of the Pusan National University Hospital, and take the ‘market village bus’ enroute to Gamcheon Culture Village.
Things to do in Busan Korea #2 – Haedong Yonggungsa Temple
Haedong Yonggungsa Temple is one of the few temples in Korea that is situated near the coast (and not further inland), and this offers visitors a chance to knock two birds with one stone: head up for second-to-none panoramic views of the ocean against the city, and learn more about traditional Korean religion.
There are some stairs to climb, but the trip up is not strenuous at all. At Haedong Yonggungsa, you will find a mix of locals and tourists, making it a cut above the rest as it adds a layer of authenticity to the tradition and cultural aspect. The temple is relatively big, and is home to many interesting statues including 12 zodiac stone figures, and a pond where you can make a wish and you just might get lucky. During the Buddha month, lanterns are strung all around the temple. You will be able to purchase food leading up to the temple, with stalls selling Korean street food such as ‘hotteok’ (Korean pancake), ‘beondegi’ (steamed silkworm pupae), and sausage.
Access: Take the Busan Subway Line 2 to Haeundae Station, and use Exit 7. Find the bus stop, and take bus 181 to Yonggungsa Temple.
Hours: 5:00am – Sunset
Spot #3 – Haeundae Beach
As one of the most popular beaches in Busan, Haeundae Beach has plenty to offer the diverse traveller: undisturbed sunbathing time under the glorious sun, gentle waves that encourage maximum water time, sweeping views of the beach, the option to go on a banana boat or a jetboat ride further out into the ocean, or even rent a kayak, paddle board, or a wakeboard for a few hours, a chance to visit the Busan Aquarium nearby, and the quick and access access to the city, where you can grab at drink at a beachside bar or dinner at a restaurant with uninterrupted views of the ocean.
A crowd favourite amongst the locals, Haeundae Beach is always a good option for a few hours of relaxation, people-watching, and rejuvenation time.
Access: Take the Busan Subway Line 2 to Haeundae Station. It is a short walk from there.
Things to do in Busan Korea #4 – Jagalchi Fish Market
With Busan being one of the biggest seaports in South Korea, it goes without saying that they would have some of the best seafood markets, and it doesn’t disappoint Jagalchi Fish Market is the most famous seafood market in all of Korea. It encompasses an indoor and outdoor section, and sells all the live, dried, and cooked seafood you can imagine.
Head there for the experience of just walking through a bustling, loud, pungent market where everyone is yelling their bargains and bargaining at once, and massive octopus and fish are merely an arm’s length away. Be prepared to be splashed with sea water every now and then, and feast with your eyes, your camera, and then ultimately your stomach along the main street where rows of food stalls selling authentic seafood Korean dishes and traditional snacks await. Squid, octopus, crab, mussels, oysters, prawns, fish – everything and anything seafood will be waiting for you.
Address: 52, Jagalchihaean-ro, Jung-gu, Busan
Access: Take the Busan Subway Line 1 to Jagalshi Station, and use Exit 10. Head right at Jagalshi 3(sam)-gin Street, and walk for 5 minutes until you reach the market on the left.
Hours: 5:00am – 10:00pm (Closed 1st and 3rd Tuesday of every month)
Things to do in Busan Korea #5 – Oryukdo Skywalk
The Oryukdo Skywalk is located on Seungdumal, and its name literally translates to ‘walking in the sky’. You will be able to see why if you visit it, because it is a horseshoe-shaped bridge that juts out into the ocean against a 35m coastal cliff, and it is completely made of glass. Visitors can walk along the transparent bridge and watch the ocean waves crashed in the distance as well as beneath their feet, which makes for a scary but exhilarating experience. The skywalk itself is meant to overlook the Oryukdo Island, which comprises of a few smaller rocky islands.
It is quite a popular tourist destination, and so if you come during peak time (ie. In the middle of the day), the boardwalk may be crowded. It is recommended that you visit nice and early in the morning, or in the late afternoon (you might even be able to catch a glimpse of the sunset in the horizon!).
Access: From Busan Train Station, take the local bus no. 27 and get off at the last stop, which should be Oryukdo SK View Apartment.
Hours: 9:00am – 6:00pm
Spot #6 – Hurshimchung Spa
As much as you’d expect to be eating sushi in Japan, or visiting the rice fields in Bali, once in Korea, you kind of have to visit a ‘jjimjilbang’ (Korean bathhouse), and what better way to experience it than at one of the biggest indoor spas known in South Korea? Being able to service up to 3,000 guests must mean that they have an abundant of facilities to accommodate, right? Well, yes! Hurshimchung spa offers hot, lukewarm, and cool baths, dry sauna rooms, fountains, showers, half baths and other shower areas. The water has a high concentrating of magnesium, making it perfect for mineral spas. There is an area where there is a heated floor and you can lie down and watch television, and a snack corner where you can eat traditional Korean food. There is an abundance of other services offers, but the list could go on forever, and it really is something that you need to experience for yourself!
Address: 23, Geumganggongwon-ro 20beon-gil, Dongnae-gu, Busan
Access: Take the Busan Subway Line 1 to Oncheonjang, and use Exit 3. Walk five minutes.
Hours: Hot Spring: 5:30am – 12:00am, Jjimjil Saunas: 6:30am – 11:00pm
Cost: Mon – Fri: Adults – 8,000 won (7$), Children – 4,000 won (3.5$); Sat – Sun: Adults – 10,000 won (9$), Children – 4,000 won (3.5$)
Book here: Hotel Nongshim
Things to do in Busan Korea #7 – Taejong-Dae Park
Often tagged as one of the best things to do in Busan, don’t be put off if you’re not a nature buff, because the highest point of Taejong-dae Park offers views of the ocean unseen from anywhere else in Busan, and its luscious greenery and rocky seaside cliffs make for a fantastic way to explore and exploit the famous seaside city of Busan for what it is. It is a bit out of the way (relative to other popular destinations), being a 50 to 60 minute bus ride away from Busan Subway Station, but that just means less crowds, less distractions, and more time and space for you to do you; take all the time in the world to explore where you want to explore, because there probably won’t be many people around and no one rushing you.
Visitors are given the option of hiking up the cliff themselves, hiring private guides, or taking a cruise tour. Another option (and probably one of the most popular options) is to take the ‘Danubi Train’, which takes you around to five major destinations within the park. The entire time, English/Chinese/Japanese/Korean broadcast services are available, making it easy to follow the itinerary. The path of the ‘Danubi Train’ course goes from the platform to Taejongsa Temple to the Observatory to the Yeongdo Lighthouse to the Gumyeongsa Temple to Taewon Jagal Madang and then back to the platform (near the entrance).
If hues of ocean blue starkly contrasting against warm jagged cliff edges are your thing (they are actually many, many people’s thing), then this is the place to be.
Address: 24 Jeonmang-ro, Dongsam 2(i)-dong, Yeongdo-gu, Busan, South Korea
Access: From Busan Station, take exit 7, and head to the third bus station. Take bus 101 to Taejongdae Station (this should take approximately 45 minutes). To head back, head to the opposite side from where you alighted, and take bus 8/30/88/101.
Hours: 4:00am – 10:00pm
Cost: Free (but if you take the Danubi Train, it is 2,000 won for adults, and 1,000 won for children)
Things to do in Busan Korea #8 – Visit Gukje Market for Street Food
Gukje Market, which translates to ‘international’ market, is a market that is highly concentrated on serving the best street food in the south. Set up by refugees who fled to Busan after the Korean war, it’s now grown and developed to be one of Korea’s largest markets – there are rows and alleys and streets of crowded stalls, all selling a wide variety of goods and foods ranging from souvenirs, electronics, clothing, seafood, fresh fruit and vegetables, and of course, all the street food you can imagine to come out from Korea. Think ddeokbokki (rice cakes), odeng (fish cakes), kimchi (Korean traditional side dish), waffles with ice cream, cotton candy, hotteok (sweet pancake), tornado potato… the list goes on and on and on. It is very popular with the locals in the area, and foreigners come from all corners of the earth to experience what a true Korean market is like.
Whilst Gukje Market is a star on its own, it’s also connected to other popular markets such as Bupyeong Market and Kkhangtong Market. One of the most unique things about Gukje is the way some of the eating areas are set out: at some stalls, you basically sit on low stools on the street opposite ladies who will then proceed to cook food right in front of your eyes out in the open!
Address: Gwangbok-ro 35beon-gil, Jung-gu
Access: Take the Metro Line 1 to Jagalshi Station and use exit 7. Walk 700m, then turn left and you will see Gukje Market Town.
Hours: Vary from stall to stall, but generally early in the morning until late evening. Market is closed on the 1st and 3rd Sundays of every month.
Busan should definitely not be discounted by anyone planning a trip to Korea. Considering how inexpensive and quick it is to travel from Seoul to Busan, a two-city trip is definitely possible even within a trip spanning one week. There’s a plethora of activities in southern South Korea that you simply will not be able to come close to experiencing if you stay in the Seoul metropolis alone, so if you’re after the full cultural experience, stick Busan onto the books.